De Pere wins battle of No. 1-ranked teams
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – The stands were jam-packed, the lights were bright and the stars aligned — at least most of them — as Wisconsin may have crowned its top boys’ basketball team.
The matchup of the season with De Pere, ranked No. 1 in Division 1, hosting Pewaukee, the top-ranked team in Division 2, didn’t disappoint on Saturday night.
Like two heavyweight fighters, both traded punches, but it was De Pere that was left standing.
The undefeated Redbirds broke a 45-45 tie with a 12-4 run and never trailed from that point on, earning a 70-63 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of over 1,800 spectators.
The game featured fifth Division I college prospects as De Pere’s big three players combined for 46 points, led by Illinois State signee John Kinziger with 21 points. Will Hornseth added 15 points and Zach Kinziger put in 10 points.
Pewaukee’s Nick Janowski went off for a game-high 32 points. Iowa State commit Milan Momcilovic was held to 12 points by De Pere’s hounding defense.
“Really big win — it was fun,” De Pere coach Brian Winchester said. “It was a great atmosphere and it had the feel of a sectional final, it had the feel of a state game. Our kids really stepped up and our kids made plays.
“Janowski, that was fun. I shouldn’t say it’s fun to watch, but it was impressive how good he was. I thought we made him take tough shots and he still hit them. Milan was good. I thought we did a really good job. We put Will Hornseth in a lot of difficult positions on switches and he was terrific on defense and he had some really good possessions on offense. He was really good tonight.”
For how good De Pere’s stars were, it was some role players that proved to be the difference.
Senior Hogan Demovsky had 13 points — nailing three critical 3-pointers — to go with two assists and two timely steals.
“I play off John and Zach well when the guys come and double on them, I just kind of sit in the corner and wait to get kickouts and then I knock down my shots,” Demovsky said.
Two of Demovsky’s shots from beyond the 3-point arc came in the opening half. He hit four free throws in the final minute to help ice the game.
“Hogan was tremendous tonight,” Winchester said. “Not only did he hit big shots, he was great on the defensive end. He had a really key strip, I thought, on Milan, and his length is bothering people. He’s always in the right position. Then, offensively, he hits a couple of big shots.”
De Pere also received key shots from Pryce Gregoire off the bench. The sophomore sank three 3-pointers in the first half at key moments.
“It was a great overall win, everyone contributed — it wasn’t just one guy,” John Kinziger said. “You look at the stat sheet, it’s 13, 15, 10, all points right up there.
“Defensive end, we came together as a team. We executed coach Winchester’s plan pretty well and when you have those guys that can come off the bench and knock down those shots, it makes my job a lot easier, too.”
Yes, De Pere’s defense once again came through.
Momcilovic entered the game averaging 24.2 points. Winchester’s defensive game plan was to match up Momcilovic against fellow 6-foot-8 big man Hornseth and make his life miserable.
Momcilovic was just 4-for-10 from the field and made just one basket outside of the paint. It was the first game all season in which Momcilovic didn’t convert a 3-point field goal.
“We knew we had to run him off the 3-point line, if he gets going, he gets going,” said John Kinziger, who played AAU with Momcilovic. “So we were going to live with his low-post fade and we were going to bring doubles on the inside. We knew we just couldn’t give him 3s, because he would get going then.”
Momcilovic, who is the 45 th rated player in the country by ESPN for the class of 2023, couldn’t get on track early.
“I missed my first, I don’t know how many shots, four, in the first couple of minutes and that kind of set me back a little bit,” Momcilovic said. “Obviously, they played really good defense on me, so that was a roadblock. I knew that their attention was going to come to me, obviously, so I kind of had to kick out a little more. But I just missed too many shots and I wasn’t aggressive at the end of the day, so I hurt our team.”
Pewaukee (17-3) had a favorable start to the game as Kaeden Osterman drained three 3-pointers to put the visitors up, 15-9.
The Pirates stretched their lead to seven, 30-23, after back-to-back baskets by Janowski.
De Pere (21-0) got its long-range shots going as John Kinziger put in a 3-pointer and Gregoire hit consecutive corner 3s to send it into half, 32-32.
A pair of Hornseth dunks put De Pere in front, but Janowski hit a contested 3-pointer to tie it, 45-45.
The Redbirds responded with a 12-4 run and another Hornseth dunk — this time with him driving baseline past Momcilovic, going under the basket and sending in for a one-handed flush.
“That at point, we knew like, alright this is the closing, this is the fourth quarter and we just have to go out and grind it away,” John Kinziger said. “It’s not going to be perfect from this point on, it’s going to be a hard-fought, strong win from here. Slow possessions on offense, strong stops on defense and that’s what we did to get our dub.”
Pewaukee cut its deficit to three, 59-56, with a 7-2 spurt. However, Zach Kinziger hit a jumper on De Pere’s next possession to give his team some cushion.
Hanging onto a five-point lead, De Pere was 9-for-10 from the free throw line in the final 58.4 seconds of the game.
“I didn’t play too good, but it was one heck of a battle,” Momcilovic said. “We went toe-to-toe with the best team in the state, and just came up a little short.”
The win keeps De Pere as the only undefeated team in the state in Divisions 1 and 2. It also served as a teaching tool for the guys.
“We learn that we can compete with anyone and our defense takes us a long way,” John Kinziger said. “Only giving up 63 points to Pewaukee is pretty darn good, and I think we’ll be able to take that a long way.”